Future unclear for new ‘Lilyhammer’

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As the last episode in the third season of the Norwegian TV series Lilyhammer was set to air on state broadcaster NRK1 Wednesday night, uncertainty flew over whether there will be a fourth season. NRK, which launched the hit series, landed in a conflict with both the show’s producers and Netflix, the international streaming service that paid for a large chunk of the season’s production costs, and now they’re all reportedly taking a “production pause.”

PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

“Lilyhammer” star Steven Van Zandt (left) has made a big impression in Norway, and been welcomed into the office of Prime Minister Erna Solberg (center). The TV series has run into various conflicts, though, and it’s unclear whether there will be a fourth season. At right, Norway’s Minister of Culture Thorhild Widvey. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported this week that Netflix was furious that NRK, in a surprise move, decided to release all the season’s episodes of Lilyhammer 3 on its “nett-TV” online when it aired the season premiere on NRK1 back in October.

Updated July 23, 2015: ‘Natural end’ for ‘Lilyhammer’ as Netflix pulls out

NRK claims that it didn’t break any agreements by making the series available to Norwegian viewers all at once.

Caught in the middle was local production company Rubicon TV. It had entered into a distribution agreement for the series with Red Arrow International that in turn struck a deal with Netflix. Netflix bought the rights to stream Lilyhammer in major markets around the world, including the US, and paid NOK 96 million (around USD 14 million) to do so. Netflix was thus extremely unhappy that NRK released all of this season’s episodes online when it aired the season premiere on October 29. That allowed Norwegian viewers to watch them all at once, or whenever they wanted, for free.

Lilyhammer 3 didn’t become available on Netflix outside Norway until November 21, and Norwegian Netflix customers must wait to see it until after NRK had aired the entire series. Netflix demanded its money back, reported DN, because NRK’s early release of the series cheapened the value of Netflix’ distribution deal, at least in Norway.

Thorny issues
At issue were several thorny, potential legal disputes, but those involved told DN on Wednesday that they’d resolved the disagreement over streaming rights. DN reported that Rubicon will pay compensation to Netflix. “We have no further comments,” Petter Wallace, chief of external production at NRK, told DN, but added that “all challenges around the use of Lilyhammer’s third season in Norway have been solved among all involved, NRK, Rubicon, Red Arrow and Netflix.”

NRK’s boss Gjermund Eriksen has repeatedly said the Norwegian broadcaster had no agreement regarding its own Internet publication with Netflix and simply wanted to do what Netflix itself has done with other TV series: “We want to publish in a way that the public gets the best access to this entertainment.”

Pål Kruke Kristiansen, head of Rubicon TV, told DN that “we are very satisifed that we have come to terms regarding the use of Lilyhammer 3 in Norway, and look positively ahead along with all partners in the project.” He couldn’t promise a new season of Lilyhammer, though, and no applications for financial support from the Norwegian Film Institute (NFI) have been submitted.

‘Production pause’
“We have just delivered a third season in record time,” Kristiansen said. He noted that since NFI “has reduced its support” and “we need a little production pause,” the “partners” hadn’t yet begun work on planning a fourth season with NRK and other investors.

“We also need to wait to see how popular Lilyhammer 3 will be on Netflix,” Kristiansen told DN. The series, which centers around a New York mafia boss relocated to the Norwegian city of Lillehammer and the cultural differences that implies, got rave reviews in Norway and was wildly popular during its first season but ratings have slipped from its early highs.

The star of the show, US actor and rock musician Steven Van Zandt, meanwhile, is publishing music used in the series that he has produced himself. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported that the digital package is called “Lilyhammer: The Score,”  and features the full versions of Van Zandt’s compositions for the show, many of which are only heard in 15-20 second versions on the TV episodes. “This has really been fun,” Van Zandt told Dagsavisen during a recent stay in Oslo. “If I had to live off of only making film music, it would be a good life.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund